ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Face masks are officially in effect for Orange County and Orlando.
The mandate, which was announced Thursday by Mayor Jerry Demings and also applies to the city of Orlando, started at 12:01 a.m. It states that every person either working, living or visiting must wear a mask in public starting.
The order is in response to climbing COVID-19 cases in Orange County and the rest of the state. Florida reported a record-breaking 3,200 new cases on Thursday, which marked the tenth day of triple-digit increases. The median age has decreased to 29.
Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said outbreaks are being followed in a club, four restaurants, five bars and one grocery store.
However, there will be some exemptions for employees and customers of the following industries:
- First response
- Health care
- Shelter or rehab centers
- Utility providers
Those 2 years old or younger, or who have a health condition that would get worse if you wear a mask, or have a job where you do not interact with the public are also exempt.
Those actively exercising will also not have to wear a face mask.
Under a separate county executive order, both employees and customers must already be wearing masks if they can’t stay six feet apart, unless the customer cannot get a service because of the mask, in which case the customer doesn’t have to wear one.
When asked how to comply with the new order at a restaurant or bar, Demings said, “If they’re not eating (and) they’re just congregating and socializing, then they should be wearing their masks.”
Businesses are encouraged to keep people without masks out.
“If you are in an establishment where they’re not practicing social distancing or wearing masks, don’t go there,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
Demings said those who don’t follow the order would not be fined or face criminal charges.
“We want voluntary compliance with this,” he said.
Demings said he contacted the governor’s office suggesting a statewide mask mandate, but he hasn’t heard back yet.
Constitutional attorney Mike Gagnon said you could argue a mask requirement violates your first amendment rights.
“Some people might believe it’s the best thing, but from legal perspective there are a lot of issues with it,” he said. “You’re kind of telling people how to dress to a certain extent.”
Gagnon also the argument could be made that you’re “telling people what their medical care is.”
“You have Florida statutes such as the Florida Patients’ Bill of Rights, which allows patients to always decide if they want or do not want medical treatment,” he said.
There have already been several lawsuits about mask mandates across our state, and the country.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Orange County will again offer small businesses the chance to pick up a packet of free personal protective equipment.
It will include 200 disposable face masks, 15 cloth masks and 20 bottles of hand sanitizers. The county expects to serve 10,000 small businesses by supplying 2 million face masks and 200,000 bottles of hand sanitizers.
Online appointments are required. Click here to sign up.
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